The Australian Trucking Magnate: The Early Years of Lindsay Fox

As of 2009, Lindsay Edward Fox was the 10th richest person in Australia, with a net worth of almost AU$1.5 billion. What started as a one-man operation driving a truck to deliver soft drinks slowly ballooned into the largest private supply chain solution company in Asia-Pacific. But it was not an easy road for Fox, who had to overcome an abusive father, high school expulsion, and more on his rise to the top.

Fox was born on 19 April 1937 in Praharan, a suburb of Melbourne. "We moved from a boarding house in Johnston Street, Fitzroy, and my parents paid £25 key money and €1 a week rent," he recalls. "And this was the first home that I grew up in."

His father, like him, was a truck driver. "Well, the old man sold beer after hours on weekends. And that was something that he probably did to top up his earnings as a truck driver," says Fox. "Mum was the traditional housewife. Loving, caring, sharing - always the keynote of the family."

His family life was not an easy one, however, with Fox saying, "I had a pretty abusive father...Mum and Dad used to fight when they both got drunk." But in the town where he lived, Fox says everyone looked after each other.

"You knew everyone in the street. You could knock on the window of the house next door and get a pound of butter or a cup of sugar or a cup of flour. If anyone was in trouble, people were prepared to give, not lend, and it made a huge difference to our local community."

Fox went to Melbourne High School, but was asked to leave at the age of 16 due to an apparent lack of interest in academics.

"Two years in the third form was just too much," he says. "And a few years after I left school, we had Wilbur Curtis, who was my form master back home, who was a tutor for my sons. And the kids asked, ‘Well, what sort of student was Dad?' at the dinner table. And I said, ‘I'm in trouble here,' but Wilbur answered extremely well. He said, ‘Your father was an excellent student, but the teachers didn't know what to teach him.'"

Right off the bat, Fox went to work as a truck driver with a second-hand truck that he had bought. "My father was a truck driver," he says. "I wanted to own one, so I went and knocked on the door of E.V. Timms in Collingwood and convinced them to sell me a truck on four quarterly promissory notes."

Fox had managed to buy his first truck even before he was old enough to get his driving license.

"I was 16 years of age," he says. "I went for my test in a Morris Minor car and I was told that at 19 years of age they never asked you for your birth certificate, so I said I was 19. I tried to correct it a few years ago. I rang up the motor registry and said, ‘You've sent out my driver's license renewal and it says that I'm three years older than I really am. I'd like to tell you that's not right.' They sent me back a letter saying, ‘No. You're that age.'"

Fox's first big move into the business world was successfully gaining the contract to do all of the heating oil distribution for BP.

"At that time, I was carting coke in the wintertime and I used to lay on the beach in the summer," he recalls. "And we needed to move into soft drink during the summer and ultimately go into what was the booming market of heating oil. I guess I convinced the people at BP that the aspect of utilization of our fleet all the year round gave it an economic benefit. But then they gave us the east coast of Australia, which was, I guess, the real growth period of our company. Thirty years of age, I had six children and 60 trucks."

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